Controlled Usage of Cellphones: Boon or Bane? by Brandon G. Maputi

by Be Informed

Cell phones have progressed from a desired luxury to a daily necessity. While these devices provide easy access to the outside world, they can be difficult for educators to use. Teachers in high school can tell their students to put their phones away, but should professors have the same authority over adult men and women? The key is to develop cellphone policies that limit distraction while protecting student rights.

The main argument in favor of cellphone control in the classroom is that phones can be distracting. Cellphones not only distract from instructions, but they may also distract students who are trying to pay attention to the lecture. This is the same effect as a moviegoer looking at his phone while watching a movie. Even if the phone does not make a sound, the light from the screen is enough to draw someone’s attention.

The majority of arguments against cellphone control center on safety concerns. If a crisis occurs in the classroom, students should have their phones ready to call for help. If a student has a child, a phone may be required in the event of a medical emergency. If the student is required to be on call for work, he or she will require access to a phone. The list of exception worthy scenarios is endless.

The best solution is to establish cellphone usage rules that allow devices to be used without interfering with other students’ educational opportunities. Students should be allowed to keep their phones in their bags, pockets, or other belongings as long as they are turned off during class. Vibrate settings may be permitted if the instructor does not believe they will distract him or her, as the noise of the vibration may be inaudible in a large classroom. This configuration would provide both the student and the instructor with peace of mind.

Cellphone bans in classrooms should be accompanied by specific disciplinary actions for rule violations. If a student is caught using his or her phone in class, he or she should be excused for the remainder of the day. Professors should avoid physically taking possession of a student phone due to liability concerns. If the is damaged while in the possession of the professor, the school or the instructor may be held liable for the repairs. It is safer to ask the student to leave the classroom than to confiscate the phone entirely.

Each professor and student body at each school is unique. Colleges must modify their rules and discipline efforts to reflect their students’ current needs. Eliminating cell phones from college classrooms is an overreach, but there are ways to strike a balance between student and instructor rights. Colleges can create a pleasant learning environment with maximum safety and minimal interruptions with the right amount of control and flexibility.

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